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Q&A  June AD 2010
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

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Baptismal and Confirmation Sponsors?
"My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Lysenkoism: Politicized Science

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Our Lady of the Rosary
Baptismal Sponsors?

    Question:  What are the functions and qualifications of baptismal sponsors [God-parents]?  Is it true that being a sponsor creates an impediment to marriage with the person sponsored?  What about Confirmation sponsors?  How serious is the responsibility of God-parents?

A    nswer:  Canon 762 tells us that “out of the most ancient practice of the Church, no one should be solemnly baptized unless he has, insofar as possible, a sponsor.”  “Solemn Baptism” is Baptism as it is normally conferred, as opposed to private Baptism conferred in danger of death, or conditional Baptism conferred upon one who was doubtfully baptized at an earlier time (c.759).

    The primary duty of the sponsor is to look after the Catholic upbringing of the one baptized should the parents become unable or unwilling to do so.  The sponsor must be a baptized and practicing Catholic, possess the use of reason, and intend to fulfill his role.  The sponsor may not be the mother, father, or spouse of the baptized, nor may he be a novice or professed religious without the permission of his superior, nor a cleric in major orders (subdeacon and above) without the permission of his bishop. (c.765-766)  One person, preferably of the same sex as the baptized, or a male and female pair may serve as sponsors (c. 764).

    A spiritual relationship arises between the minister of Baptism, and the one baptized, and the sponsor (c.768).  This relationship invalidates marriage between the related parties (c.1079).  In the case of infant Baptism, the age difference between the sponsor and the baptized generally precludes marriage anyway, but the relationship might be significant in the case of one baptized as an adult—making it preferable to select a sponsor of the same sex as the one baptized.  If the sponsor is represented by a proxy, the proxy contracts no spiritual relationship.

    For Confirmation the requirements for sponsors are much the same as for Baptism, although the Confirmation sponsor must have been previously confirmed, and will usually be a different person from the baptismal sponsor unless the two Sacraments are received on the same occasion, or unless the minister of Confirmation sees fit to allow the baptismal sponsor to serve.  Normally the sponsor is of the same sex as the one confirmed, unless the minister of Confirmation permits otherwise. (c.796)  There is only one sponsor for each person confirmed, and, unless the minister of Confirmation decides otherwise, a sponsor will stand up for only one or two people being confirmed (c.794).  A spiritual relationship arises between the one confirmed and the sponsor, but it is not an invalidating impediment to marriage (c.1079).

    The responsibility of the sponsor(s) to see to the Catholic education of the one they sponsor  is grave, for the salvation of a baptized soul may well depend upon it.  For this reason, sponsors ought to be chose who will actually be able to carry out their responsibilities.  Things like character, age, and geographical proximity ought to be considered.  It might also be beneficial to chose someone legally capable of becoming an adoptive parent or guardian if the parents were to die—although neither adoption or legal guardianship is demanded as a result of the baptismal relationship.

    The role of the sponsor is a bit more tricky if the parents simply fail in their duties of Catholic upbringing.  Clearly, the sponsor must make the effort to fill in for the parents, but this may not always be possible if there are parental objections.  Moral impossibility relieves the sponsor of his obligations as sponsor.

    But, the good Lord willing, the works of the God-parents for their spiritual children  will bring many souls to the happiness of heaven.  God wills it!


Our Lady of the Rosary
My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

    Question:  During Holy Week, while He hung on the Cross, our Lord is recorded as crying out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  How could it be possible for Him to imagine that such a thing had taken place?

    Answer:  .That passage is from Matthew 27: 45-46.  But, far from expressing abandonment, our Lord was reciting Psalm 21 to demonstrate that His passion had been predicted in the Old Testament:

    But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people.  All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.  He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him. ...They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me.  They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.  (Psalm xxi: 7-9, 18-19)

In spite of the apparent helplessness, Jesus, speaking through the Psalmist, has the courage to call on God for His help:

But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence. Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog.  Save me from the lion's mouth; and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns. (Psalm ibid., 20-22).

    The Psalm ends on a relatively upbeat note:

And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him.  There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall shew forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.( Psalm ibid., 31-32).

    Psalm 21 is recited during the stripping of the altars after the Mass of Holy Thursday, and is recited each Friday during the hour of Prime.  It is one of the several Psalms referred to as the “Messianic Psalms,” because they seem to point toward the future Christ or Anointed One of the Lord.  Our Lord called this to the attention of the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel:

And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them,  Saying: What think you of Christ? whose son is he? They say to him: David's. He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?(Matthew  ii: 41-45)

In Matthew’s Gospel our Lord was referring to Psalm 109.  Psalms 2, 19, and 44 have similar Messianic language.

Our Lady of the Rosary
Lysenkoism: Politicized Science

    Question:  You spoke of science becoming “politicized.”  How could something as objective as science be subject to a political agenda.

    Answer:  We see the politicization of science in the Soviet Union in an attempt to make genetics compatible with Marxist ideology.  The plague of Lysenkoism has spread, as well, to the Western World.

Trofim Denisovich LysenkoLysenkoism:  Ideology Based “Science” Ideology Based “Science”

    Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898–1976) gave his name to the practice of science to serve an ideological purpose rather than to determine the truth about natural phenomena.  At a time when people in the Soviet Union were starving, Lysenko's crackpot agricultural theories were glorified by the State because they coincided with the doctrines of Marxism.  For well over a decade orthodox scientists who disagreed with Lysenko were persecuted--their works were not published, they were forced into other lines of research, some were sent to the gulags, and others just, well, disappeared.  Although today Lysenko is nothing more than a bad memory, his story is important in that it demonstrates the way in which government can manipulate scientists to legitimize ideological aspirations and political plans.  Unfortunately, at least in spirit, Lysenko, is still alive and well in government, academia and the mass media.

    Modern genetics is based on the work of Gregor Mendel (1822-1884),  a Catholic priest, abbot of an Augustinian monastery, with a university education in the sciences--hardly a model for Marxist emulation.  Mendel's research on thousands of pea plants led him to theorize that plants had paired dominant and recessive characteristics--tall and short, for example. If a plant were tall it could be so by virtue of a pair of tall characteristics or by having a pair of short and tall.  Only if the short characteristics were paired would the plant be short.  By proper selection of breeding stock it was possible to produce plants possessing the recessive characteristic that would breed true amongst their own kind.  Around 1900 Mendel's work was rediscovered and formed the basis for the modern theory of genetics--ultimately that genetic information was carried on chromosomes that could be seen under electron magnification.  But to the political theorists of the Soviet Empire, Mendelian genetics seemed to be idealistic conceptions, almost spiritual in nature, and utterly incompatible with dialectic materialism.

    A rival theory theory to Mendel's had been developed by Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 –1829), holding that new strains could be developed on the basis of characteristics they acquired.  He postulated, for example, that giraffes that had to eat leaves from tall trees developed longer necks over time--and passed this acquired characteristic on to their descendants.  Today this is known to be incorrect for there is no mechanism for the reproductive cells to receive information from the other (somatic) cells of the body--a mechanism necessary if the trait is to be passed on. The saying goes that "you might inherit a wooden head, but you cannot inherit a wooden leg"!

    Lamarck's theory was picked up by Ivan Vladimirovich Michurin (1855–1935) at the University of Moscow.  Michurin was a Lamarkian who had done some otherwise useful work in hybridization.  Michurin was joined in 1925 by the Austrian socialist, Paul Kammerer, who claimed to have proved Lamarck's theory with a series of scientific experiments. Kammerer's "success" got him a chair at the University of Moscow, but shortly after his appointment it became clear that Kammerer's experiments had been faked. Fraud tends to be common in the ideological sciences like evolution, global warming, the alar and atrazine ban, the DDT scam, and so forth,   Kammerer tried unsuccessfully to blame an assistant, and committed suicide to escape disgrace. Nonetheless, the Soviet Regime held Kammerer in respect, making a movie about him, and blaming capitalist reactionaries for the false evidence.

    During the 1930s Soviet farmers had been forced to collectivize, a move consistent with Marxist theory, and quite damaging to agricultural production.  With little incentive to produce, coupled with the harsh conditions of the region,  farm output dropped dramatically. The Soviets responded by starving the Ukrainian farmers, confiscating their grain to feed the rest of the country.   On the basis of rather wild claims to produce crop strains suited to the harsh climate of the Soviet Union, Trofim Denisovich Lysenko (1898-1976), following in the footsteps of Lamarck, Michurin, and Kammerer,  became the director of the Soviet Academy of Science’s Institute of Genetics Soviet Academy of Science’s in 1940.

    Lysenko worked diligently to maintain their Lamarckian genetics of mutation by means of acquired characteristics. Lysenko, a peasant farmer with little formal scientific education, was highly esteemed by Stalin regime, which celebrated him as one of the “barefoot scientists” of the revolution.  During the 1930’s, even before Lysenko was appointed Director of the Institute of Genetics, scientists who held the Mendelian gene based mutation theory began to disappear:

    In 1933 or thereabouts, the geneticists Chetverikoff, Ferry and Ephroimson were all, on separate occasions banished to Siberia, and Levitsky to a lobor camp in the European Arctic … in 1936, the Communist geneticist Agol was done away with, following rumors that he had been convicted of ’Menshevik idealism’ in genetics … it is impossible to learn the real causes of the deaths of such distinguished geneticists as Karpechenko, Koltzoff, Serebrovsky, and Levitsky….N.I. Vavilov, the most distinguished geneticist in Russia--internationally famous and respected--was relieved of his many posts and accused of being a British spy. He died in 1942 in a Siberian labor camp, although it was not until several years later that biologist outside Russia were able to learn what happened to him ( Martin Gardner, Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science (Dover: Mineola NY, 1957), p. 144-145 quoting Nobel Prize winner H.J. Muller).

Lysenko and Stalin’s regime spared no effort to “butter one another’s bread.” Lysenko replaced Vavilov in 1940, and did not tire of praising Lenin, Stalin, and the Central Committee of the Communist Party as wise leaders, great scholars , and paragons of science, having “raised the Michurinist tendency in biology to the position of the only correct and progressive tendency in all the branches of biological science…. Long live the forward looking biological Michurinist science! Glory to the great Stalin, leader of the people and coryphaeus of forward looking science!” (Gardner, p.146, quoting Pravda, 10 August 1948.) “… the wise leader and teacher off the Soviet people, the greatest scholar of our epoch, Comrade Stalin…. (Gardner, p.145).

    Not to be out done by their minion, the regime twice conferred upon Lysenko the Stalin Prize, and once the Order of Lenin, making him also a Hero of the Soviet Union. He was for a time a vice president of the Supreme Soviet. Governments, it seems, can always get meaningless prizes for those who lead the masses in toeing the line of ideological science. Alfred Nobel must be rotating in his grave!

    But for all of this mutual admiration and glory, the theories of Lysenko proved to be disastrously wrong. To begin with, it seems that Lysenko had no theory in the scientific sense. There was no trace of the Scientific Method in his work. He had made no hypotheses, conducted no empirical, controlled, experiments to confirm his claims, no statistical analysis of results, and published no data or methodology that could be checked by independent researchers.

    What Lysenko was doing was “try it and see if it works.” His idea was that by exposing a plant to harsh conditions, he could “shatter” its heredity--somewhat as a revolution “shatters” a society--making it highly susceptible to change. Lysenko, following Lamarck, held that through this process, which he called “vernalization,” the surviving plants would pass their new heredity on to future generations. His departure from the Scientific Method cut years off the time required to bring a new strain to productivity--this pleased the Regime immensely, and put the real scientific establishment (or what was left of it) at a serious disadvantage. Lysenko mocked real science with its careful method as “reactionary idealism, groveling before the slave masters of bourgeois western capitalism” (my collection of adjectives mentioned by Gardner).

    Lysenko was successful some of the time, but for reasons that he did not understand. The plant that survives exposure to harsh conditions may well be the one that was hereditarily best suited for survival. That is called “getting lucky.” But the survival had nothing to do with “vernalization”-- it just happened to be a hardier plant. But if the hardiness was carried on a recessive gene there was a four to one chance that it would not “breed true” when fertilized by another plant. And, even if it did, the hardiness might be “bred out” in a few generations. There was no theory of dominant and recessive genes in Lysenko’s thinking, and consequently no attempt to keep the strain pure--and certainly no attempt to use pure strains as would be necessary in a controlled experiment. Nonetheless, it took until a year after Nikita Khrushchev’s dismissal from office in 1964 for the Academy of Sciences to remove Lysenko from the Institute of Genetics. His influence is said to have persisted in Communist China for some years.

    Yet, one has to ask why the Marxist government would tolerate a system that failed far often than it succeeded to remain for over thirty years. Gregor Mendel was a Catholic priest, and the Nazis had made use of the genetic theory in a perverse explanation of their claim to be a “super race.” But the real answer to the question seems to lie more in the nature of Marxism itself. The dialectical materialism of Hegel and Marx is based on the idea that a new reality is formed when antithetical elements collide (thesis + antithesis → synthesis). The changing of an organism or a people through a violent collision with an external agent would seem to bear out the reality of the Marxian dialectic, and bear it out without any “idealistic” constructs like natures, souls, or genes.

    As we have seen with “cultural Marxism” in the west, the general strategy of Marxists is to destroy the culture they are intent on remaking. Destroy religion, philosophy, music, and art;  destroy the morals of the society, destroy its science, its economy, and even the means to feed itself, and that society will be a plum, ripe for picking. Fortunately for us, at least for the moment, Marxism has not fully succeeded in “shattering” our society, and the folly of Lysenkoism in the Soviet Union bought us some time. Now if only we can resist a similar folly in our own Republic!

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